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God's Politics

Elizabeth Palmberg: New Day or Bad Gamble?

Why is it so ironic that, last Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that congressional leaders had reached a compromise with the Bush administration to make proposed trade agreements with Peru and Panama somewhat less terrible, and would now encourage Congress to approve those agreements?

Less than a week earlier, U.S. trade negotiators admitted that – oops! – back in the early 1990s, at the start of the WTO, they’d accidentally committed the entire nation to provide completely unfettered access to foreign Internet casinos:


the United States did not intend to adopt commitments that were inconsistent with its own laws … gambling or betting services are generally prohibited or highly restricted in the United States for reasons of public morality, law enforcement and protection of minors and other vulnerable groups.

We only noticed the blooper when casino host country Antigua filed a successful trade lawsuit (European countries were expected to follow suit). And what the government isn’t emphasizing now is that, in order to withdraw our gambling market from WTO jurisdiction and protect countless state and local gambling laws, we’re going to have to pay through the nose to Antigua and any other country that feels cut out of the action.


So, when Pelosi tells Congress, and the rest of us, that it’s “a new day,” and that all the problems with the proposed U.S-Peru and U.S.-Panama trade agreements – extraordinarily complex, binding treaties – are fixed now, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do you feel lucky?

Well, do you?

Elizabeth Palmberg is an Assistant Editor for Sojourners magazine. + Learn more in Sojourners’ May special issue on trade justice

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posted May 16, 2007 at 1:35 am

We should get rid of laws restricting gambling anyway. Right now the primary reason the state doesn’t allow free entry into the gambling market is because it holds a monopoly. If you want to gamble in many states the only venue is the state lottery. Otherwise you have to go to another nation, like an Indian reservation. To be consistent the state should either disenfranchise itself, or legalize gambling for all. As for crime, Las Vegas has no more crime than other cities which outlaw gambling. It has more prostitution, and other vices, but these things don’t hurt innocents any more than exposure to the scriptures does. In terms of international relations we should lift all international trade barriers and immigration quotas. THAT would initiate a new day.

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Joseph Tracy

posted May 16, 2007 at 6:24 am

Not enough information on the Peru Panama Trade agreements to make this a meaningful article for most readers. The writer has more work to do.

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posted May 16, 2007 at 10:08 pm

You have got to be kidding! How misinformed you truly are. Whatever you think of the new Speaker of the House please don’t blame her for Republican mistakes. The Antigua brouhaha is based on one simple fact. When the idiots of the last congress AKA special interest Republicans outlawed casino gambling on the net all they had to do was outlaw horse racing with it and our buddies down in Antigua wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. But since the special interest Republicans left horse racing alone giving Antigua all the ammunition they needed to go to the WTO with a legitimate complaint. Please don’t blame A Democratic Speaker of the House for Republican stupidity that was pointed out during congressional hearings over 3 years ago. Republicans only want the appearance of taking the high ground because actually doing so would cost them money. Seven come eleven!

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posted May 16, 2007 at 10:11 pm

I agree with Joseph. So we missed a minor provision in the WTO agreement in 1990. And this says what about today’s trade deals?

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Elizabeth Palmberg

posted May 18, 2007 at 10:22 pm

The details of the Antigua gambling case are indeed complex (here’s a link for more info on that: ). This complexity, which is characteristic of trade agreements, supports my point that we should be very careful about ratifying them, particularly because they are expensive to modify later. It’s all too easy to “agree… to commitments in direct conflict with [our] own laws.”

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